Congress passes Coronavirus Response Act to help employees weather this storm.

In addition to changing the way we work, the coronavirus has also created tension and unease (to put it mildly) for employees and business owners everywhere.  The fact that we are all in this together does little to ease the mind of an employee worrying about losing her job or taking time off because her child’s school has shut down.

Last week Congress passed and the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  Although I would not advise it, if you want to read the full text of the bill you can do so here.  Congress had no choice but to hastily cobble together this legislations which means it is quite confusing.  Employees and business owners have flooded the Department of Labor, the federal agency charged with issuing interpreting regulations of the law, with calls asking for guidance.  While the DOL works to issue formal guidance, here is what we can tell you now:

  • The Act goes into effect April 2 and continues through at least December 31, 2020.
  • The Act applies to employers with 500 or less employees.  You may be wondering why it does not apply to companies with more than 500 employees.  So are we.  For those larger companies, the Family and Medical Leave Act (which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave) still applies (at least for now).

The FFCRA has two parts relevant to employees.  Below is a summary of both:

  • Emergency Family and Medical Leave
    • Provides up to 12 weeks of protected leave if you are unable to work (or telework) because you have to take care of kids whose school is closed, or child-care provider is unable to care for them because of COVID-19. 
    • This leave is only available to employees who have worked for a company for at least 30 days.
    • The first 10 days are unpaid (but you can probably use the emergency paid sick leave outlined below)
    • After the first 10 days, you will receive 2/3 your regular rate of pay but that pay is capped at $200/day up to $10,000 total.
    • You must be returned to a same or similar job when you return to work.
  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave 
    • Benefits kick in if: 1) a governmental quarantine order has been issued (such as what we have here in Illinois); 2) health-care recommended quarantine; 3) you are experiencing symptoms of or are diagnosed to Covid-19; 4) you are caring for someone quarantined or for a child whose school is closed.
    • Provides up to 80 hours of paid emergency leave for full time employees and pro-rated for part-time employees;
    • Applies to all employees regardless of how long they have worked for company.
    • Compensation during these 80 hours differs based on reason for time off:  if you are under government or medical quarantine you receive your regular pay up to $511/day; capped at $5,110 in the aggregate.  If you are caring for someone else or for a child whose school is closed you will receive your regular pay up to $200/day; capped at $2,000 in the aggregate.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of us.  We are happy to walk you through it and ensure you have the protections in place you need.